Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Portia in Ghana

August 24, 1999

I just love being able to look back over the years and see how they grow and mature.

We began sponsoring Portia in July of 2007. I was living in Minnesota and had met with another sponsor and advocate, Jane. (Jane is one of Compassion's advocate coaches, and I highly recommend getting to know this woman!) Jane's love for her sponsored children and the ministry of Compassion was inspiring and contagious. She talked to me about child after child she'd traveled to meet and I was curious just how many children she sponsored. When I asked her, she hesitated to tell me - in fact, I had to pry it out of her. She taught me a lot that day!

During our conversation, I mentioned that if I ever ran across a child who shared my birthday I would love to have a birthday buddy. She casually asked me when my birthday was. Two weeks later I went to my mailbox and there was Portia's child packet - my birthday buddy! I'm so glad Jane requested her for me - without me asking her to.

Portia was just about 8 years old when we began sponsoring and over the years we have received 101 letters from her. The first several years we received letters every month and they were all written in letter form. She was, by far, my best letter writer. In 2009 the letter format changed to a form that included sections: response to my sponsor's letter, question for sponsor, I want to know more about, my prayer for my sponsor, my prayer request and my memory verse. Eventually the letters started arriving every other month and with the new format were less and less personal.

In early March of 2020 I received notice that Portia had moved and was no longer able to participate in Compassion's project. She was 20 years old, so her time in the program was naturally coming to an end. It's never easy to say goodbye to a Compassion child, but this sweet girl (my birthday buddy) was extra special to me. I'm so grateful for the 12 1/2 years I had to write letters to her. I'll include her final letter to us in the bottom of this post.

I have received the most photos from Portia - many photos documenting how she spent the money we had sent as a gift.  In 2007 I was able to send a small package to her with another advocate who was traveling to Ghana (I think it was actually Jane!)

Here are some of the items she was able to buy with the gifted money:  rice, school bags (I see 3), oil, tin tomatoes, cake, drinks, material for making dress (which she told me she word to church), dress, shoes, socks text books, soap and toilet roll. 

Portia attends Immanuel Presby - GH 402 - south of Accra.

According to Compassion's information, Portia lives with her mother and is the only child. But several of her letters mention her parents and siblings. I'm wondering if she spends time with her father who might have other children. (Compassion's info specifically said she is the only child of her mother). Or perhaps her parents aren't divorced but separated and sometimes her father comes back. One letter requested I pray for her parents to live in peace.

In 2007 (age 8), Portia expressed a desire to do well in school and become a doctor. She expressed this same desire in 2013 - several years later.

According to her letters, Portia is learning / has learned the following:

At the project:
  • health - how to keep hands clean with soap and water before and after eating
  • to make bead necklaces (not the rolled up paper kind)
  • what physical changes occur during adolescence
  • how to keep body healthy and the enviroment clean
  • spiritual gifts
  • how to dance
  • learned how to dress, cook and have an effective quiet time
At home:
  • helps mother cook
  • sweep the compound and kitchen
  • wash father's car

At church:
  • goes every Sunday
  • reads Bible (has her own)
  • how to pray
  • lead worship through singing

"I'm so happy to be part of this family." (she stated this in almost every letter the first year)
"It is all joy whenever I hear from you." 

Final letter: (written by the social worker, but a great illustration of what our 12 1/2 years of sponsorship meant to Portia)

Dear Kevin and Jill, 
I always thank God for you life and I trust the family is doing well by God's grace. On behalf of the project staff, I say a very big thank you for your love, numerous gifts and sponsorship for your daughter.  
Portia , your beloved daughter is in good health and has completed her senior high school education and she's working as at the time of departure. She has benefited a lot through your numerous family, general and birthday gifts. You provided her needs by putting food on the table, payment of school fees, distribution of Bible and Christmas gifts, to mention but a few.  
Portia stands tall among her peers to make responsible decisions and can communicate effectively with others.  
The family has moved to a non-Compassion region making it impossible to maintain Portia in the program, hence the departure. The family now has food to eat and clothes to wear all because of your sponsorship. It's our prayer that the heavens will be open unto you. God be with you all and bless you all.

rom the CDC director:

On a typical meeting day the children gather for devotion, which is normally led by some of the children, especially the adolescents. After devotion they go and take their breakfast, then go to their various age-graded classrooms. This spiritual development inculcated in the children has enabled most of them, including some Muslims, to attend our children's services on Sundays. The Muslim children in the project participate in Bible reading, memorize verses from the Bible and sing Christian songs. 

After the teaching of the curriculum, the children go for lunch after which the time for extracurricular activities like cultural clubs, debate clubs, Red Cross clubs, and bead making also take place.  

The project is of the view that a healthy mind is always found in a healthy body, so children are taught to practice cleanliness and to exercise their bodies for a healthy life. In addition, the children are supplied with toothpaste, toothbrushes and handkerchiefs. When they are sick, they are referred to the Madina Polyclinic for treatment at the expense of the project. 

Children are taught to make responsible decision,s have confidence in themselves, live interdependently and behave appropriately in their environment. Children are taught to read and write. Most of them are able to read they Bible, write and do simple calculations. Handicrafts were introduced, and so they have advanced in crocheting, doormat weaving and making of beads. 

The project has impacted positively on the children. They have confidence in themselves and are committed to learn and improve. Parents are also relieved of some commitments by the projects through the payment of school levies, provision of clothing through sponsors' monthly support and the serving of balanced diet to the children at the project.  

Caregivers have been equipped with education on health and sanitation, and our visits to the homes of some of these caregivers have shown good management of their environmental surroundings due to the things they have been taught. Some guardians of the children who received family gifts have used some of the gifts to start income generating activities and the profits from these activities have helped their families in many ways. 

Sponsors and children are interacting very well, and it has also improved the children's ability of speaking and writing of the English language through letter writing. When the time comes for children to write letters, they get so excited because it gives them the change to connect again with their sponsors. 

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